Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Does Bribery Pay in Oklahoma?

Politics is indeed Hollywood for Ugly People!

Does Bribery Pay in Oklahoma?

Yes says Corporation Commissioners Todd Hiett, Dana Murphy, and AG Mike Hunter. All three sided with ATT in the latest skirmish with the long running ATT bribery scandal. Back in April a group of citizens asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to overturn a previous verdict on the ATT scandal on the basis that the lead attorney for ATT at that time not only had knowledge of the bribery of Corporation Commissioners, they allege that he participated in the bribery scheme.

The lawsuit is asking for almost 16 billion dollars including interest in the decades old scandal. Using the Oklahoma Constitution clauses aimed at preventing big business exploitation and bribery the group is asking the Supreme Court to declare for all time that bribed votes don't count.

For its part, ATT is claiming that the Corporation Commission is powerless to overturn the 1989 order that allowed ATT (SW Bell at the time) to keep millions of dollars after a federal windfall tax change. The rate case, PUD 260, was passed by 2 to 1 with Commissioner Bob Anthony casting the sole no vote. Later it came to light that another commissioner, Robert Hopkins, had been paid a $10,000.00 bribe in return for his vote against returning the money to Oklahoma consumers. Hopkins was later convicted for the bribery and sent to prison along with one of the SW Bell attorneys. Current Commissioner Bob Anthony wore a wire in the original investigation and provided the proof that got Hopkins convicted.

With interest the case is now worth just under $16 billion dollars and increasing at $100 million per month in interest. The group suing for justice is advocating refunding every ATT line customer $10,000.0 and spending billions more for teacher pay, upgrading military bases, and a billion for the Rainy Day Fund.

The court petition is claiming intrinsic fraud on the part of other ATT attorneys involved in the previous court cases. The brief also claims that instead of the small $30 million dollar windfall the changes in federal taxes amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars at the time. The 1991 Oklahoma Supreme Court had no idea that Commissioner Hopkins had been bribed when they decided the case in favor of ATT yet the principal attorney for ATT is alleged to have known about the bribery and even participated in the scheme.

FBI investigative summaries and wire tap transcripts reveled that Glen Glass, the top in house attorney for ATT at the time knew of the bribery effort and had provided some of the money using some of his distant relatives as cover for campaign contributions. Commissioner Hopkins and ATT attorney William Anderson went to federal prison over the case but Glass and other ATT excutives implicated were not prosecuted.

As Oklahoma has laws that prevent lawyers from assisting criminal acts by their clients the April 2017 brief says that ATT committed intrinsic fraud against the Supreme Court by not disclosing Glass's alleged part in the bribery. The four distant relatives of Glass appeared on campaign contribution reports yet all told the FBI that they knew nothing of the donations. The innocent relatives did admit to knowing Glass and to being related to his wife.

In September of 2016 Corporation Commissioners Dana Murphy and Todd Hiett claimed that the Oklahoma Supreme Court was preventing the Corporation Commission from overturning the previous rate cases and returning the money to rate payers. Yet the 1991 Henry decision they quoted was tainted by the refusal of ATT and Glass to divulge that they had been a party to the earlier bribes or alleged or investigated for the same. As court decisions obtained by fraud are always liable to be thrown out the petitioners are asking that it be done and the money returned to rate payers including the decades of interest.

Even more illuminating is the 2015 brief filed by ATT in the November 3rd 20015 Corporation Commission hearing that stated that bribed votes do count, that the law backs up the bribed votes according to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Both Heitt and Murphy used the fact that the Supreme Court knew about he bribery and had done nothing to alter the decision in their decision to disallow the refund to ATT consumers.

Stymied at the Corporation Commission, the petitioners are asking the Supreme Court to uphold Article 9, Section 40 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which says that no corporations shall be permitted to bribe officials. They are asking the Supreme Court to void the 1991 PUD 260 order and order the Corporation Commission to review and redetermine the original rate case.